Do Dogs Sweat?
By Chyrle Bonk, DVM April 14, 2020
When the dog days of summer approaches, the thought of midday heat may make some of us start to glisten with sweat. It’s true that sweating in humans provide a welcome relief that cools our bodies down when things get a little too warm. But have you ever wondered if sweating applies to your dog?
Do Dogs Sweat?
Yes, dogs do sweat and use panting as their main mechanism for cooling themselves. They won’t come in fully drenched after a hard run or start to glisten with sweat, but they do possess sweat glands similar to the ones in humans. The sweat glands are just strategically placed and not nearly as active as ours.
How Do Dogs Sweat?
Dogs have sweat glands, called merocrine glands, located on their foot pads and noses. These merocrine glands function basically the same way as human sweat glands do by releasing fluid that is then evaporated to provide some cooling. Dogs also have sweat glands, called apocrine glands, spread throughout their body. However, these glands don’t produce sweat as we know it. Instead, they produce pheromones that help give your dog their signature scent for other dogs and critters to recognize.
Why Do Dogs Only Sweat Through Certain Areas?
Our bodies are covered in millions of sweat glands that are activated when our body temperature gets too hot. These glands release fluid onto the surface of the skin. The fluid is then evaporated to produce cooling off of the body. This system works pretty well for humans, but is very inefficient for dogs. Since their bodies are covered in hair, the sweating process that works for humans would impede the sweat from evaporating for dogs by leaving them hot and wet.
Mother Nature’s response to this is to put sweat glands only in non-haired parts of a dog’s body, like their foot pads and nose. Anywhere else would just be a waste and wouldn’t provide any cooling benefit to your dog.
Do Dogs Sweat When They Are Nervous?
Imagine yourself up on a stage, about to give a speech to 500 people that you don’t know. For most of us, this would induce some sweaty palms, butterflies, and maybe even a feeling that we are about to faint. Now, instead picture your dog up on that stage about to perform. Do you think they would have a similar reaction?
Dogs don’t solely utilize sweating as a means of cooling. Dogs can sweat in response to nervousness or stress. Your dog’s stage fright that brings about sweaty paws may be due to a visit to the vet’s office, the car, or during a thunderstorm. But what is the purpose of it? It’s hypothesized that a dog’s sweaty paws may aid in traction so that they can either better fight or turn and run from a stressful situation that they are facing. This type of sweating is different from sweating for thermoregulation because it’s triggered by different areas of the brain.
Why Is My Dog Sweating So Much?
If you’re able to follow your dog’s trail of damp paw prints around your home on a regular basis, then they may be sweating more than normal. Again, sweating is not a dog’s primary means of cooling themselves, and hopefully your dog isn’t feeling stressed or anxious the majority of the time. That being said, just like people, some dogs sweat more than others.
If you’re concerned that your pup is sweating more than normal, try to figure out what’s causing it. Maybe the weather is warming up and they’re still sporting their full winter coat, or their bed is placed too close to the heater or furnace. Maybe you just welcomed a new furry friend into your home or the neighbor dog is barking constantly and causing unwanted stress. If you think something is out of the ordinary with the amount your dog is sweating, try to give them a nice, cool spot to lay or get them groomed to remove excess hair. Decrease their stress with a safe spot and lots of one-on-one attention.
When Should You Be Concerned With Your Dog’s Sweating?
Anytime there is a change in the amount your dog sweats, you should be concerned. For example, if you didn’t even know your dog had sweat glands and then all of a sudden you can’t seem to keep the floors clean from all the sweaty footprints, you should get your pup checked out. A sudden increase in the amount that your dog is sweating could mean they’re running a fever or that they’re overly stressed or anxious. If your dog sweats and pants excessively, then it’s time to get them cooled down.
What Is The Best Way To Cool Down Your Dog?
Since your pup only has sweat glands on a very small portion of their body, they rely on other methods to cool them down. Panting is a dog’s main outlet for excess heat. It works similar to sweating in that it utilizes the evaporation of moisture only from the moist nasal passages, tongue, mouth, and lungs instead of the skin. This allows the air to cool as it is exhaled from the body. However, this process only cools down a small amount of air as compared to what a full body sweating can do.
Dogs also use vasodilation to cool down. When temperatures heat up, a dog’s blood vessels expand to allow them to be closer to the surface of the skin where the blood can be cooled. Again, this is not as efficient as sweating.
It’s important to keep your pup from overheating since it can lead to a dangerous condition called heatstroke. Signs that your pup is too hot include excessive panting, disorientation, incoordination, thickened saliva, unconsciousness, and even death. Even if your dog recovers from heat stroke, maintaining a high body temperature for a prolonged period of time can lead to permanent organ damage, so it’s important to keep them cool.
If you suspect that your dog’s temperature is running on high, the best thing you can do is get them to a cool spot. Allow them to lie down on a cool floor or in the shady grass. Offer them small amounts of cool, not cold, water. If your dog is overly hot, you can place cool, wet washcloths in their armpits and groin area and then get them to the veterinarian. Your vet may use fluids under the skin or intravenously to continue the cooling process.
Preventing overheating in the first place is the best measure. Limit exercise to the cooler parts of the day and make sure they don’t overexert themselves. Make sure your dog always have a shady spot when outside, or a cool spot indoors to rest. Keep clean water in front of them at all times and make sure that they are drinking enough and staying hydrated. You don’t want your pup to have to rely on their ability to sweat or pant when the temperature gets too hot.
We’re all aware that dogs pant when they’re hot or anxious, but they can also sweat. While it’s not the type of full body sweating that we’re used to as humans, dog sweat only from their foot pads and nose. Sweating this way offers some amount of cooling, but sometimes they need a little extra help to keep their body temperature down in a comfortable range. So making sure your pup has access to fresh water and a cool spot will help them prevent heat related complications and sweat less.